At the Grand Bend Rotary Autumn Indulgence event held on Saturday, October 1 2022, President-Elect Kerry Teskey announced an extraordinary gift to the community from Peter and Esther Warner. Peter, a charter member of the Rotary Club, has served the Grand Bend community in many ways, including his role in founding the Rotary Trail. On receiving a standing ovation after the President-Elect’s announcement, Peter admits to feeling humbled by the response and outpouring of support for the project.
Peter and his late wife, Esther, have lived for many years on an incredibly beautiful 60-acre property in the heart of Grand Bend. Merrywood Farm is located on highway #21, across from Best’s Ice Cream and the Catholic church. The land extends from the highway to the Ausable River on its east side, consisting of forests, meadows, and wetlands. Home to a great variety of plants and wildlife, it is a unique and valued area.
Initially slated by the municipality for future residential development, Peter and Esther had a very different take on what they wanted their home and property to become once they were no longer able to steward it themselves.
The Warners wanted to ensure the property would remain a refuge for wildlife and nature, to be used for outdoor nature education. To see their dream come to fruition they approached the Huron Tract Land Trust Conservancy. The Land Trust was formed by the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation 10 years ago, with a mission to hold and conserve natural areas and protect them for future generations. It is Peter and Esther’s wish that their property at Merrywood Farm is donated to the Land Trust. This will create a lasting land legacy to benefit the community, the children, and the grandchildren of today and tomorrow. It is estimated that the value of the donation in financial terms is a multi-million-dollar gift. However, in terms of nature and conservation, it is priceless!
A management plan has been developed for the property in which the Rotary Club of Grand Bend will play a key role in ongoing and future stewardship, in cooperation with the Land Trust. This includes a specially designated area that has been selected for the creation of an arboretum. An arboretum is a collection of trees of a variety of species and is a living collection intended, at least in part, for scientific or educational study. The arboretum will collect and display a wide variety of tree species in a natural, beautiful landscape for people to study, enjoy, and learn how to grow them in ways that enhance our environment.
At Autumn Indulgence, guests and Rotary members pledged over $50,000.00 toward the project, which is a tremendous showing of support by attendees. Donations to this outstanding project will be used to acquire and plant healthy trees in the arboretum, along with the development of paths dotted with benches for students and guests to use and enjoy. The target is to plant up to 100 different tree species over a period of time, each one labeled for educational purposes. Peter and Esther Warner have found a way to ensure their generous gift is one that continues in perpetuity for generations to come. What a legacy indeed!
To learn more, visit Huron Tract Land Trust Conservancy – Leaving a lasting local land legacy (, To donate to the Warner Wildlife and Nature Preserve, call 519-235-2610, or toll-free 1-888-286-2610.